I recently decided to take a trip over to Runescape's website and log into the game to see what has changed. If you're not familiar with it, it's a sizeable massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) for PC, which was originally launched back in 2001 and used Java. Now the game utilizes Java and C++ and has received many updates in the 11 years of my absence.
The younger years
I, unfortunately, missed out on the original Runescape, joining in 2004 when Runescape 2 went live (which brought 3D graphics and other substantial upgrades), back when I was a teen in school. I don't even want to know the number of hours myself and friends lost to Runescape across multiple accounts — it would be well into the thousands.
The beauty of Runescape at that time was the low system requirements and incredibly addictive grind-like gameplay. The MMORPG makes full use of a skill system that requires experience points (EXP) to increase in levels, up to a total of 99 in each skill. Skills cover many areas, from combat to prayer, wood cutting to fishing, and smithing to crafting. There was enough content to keep all of us entertained, no matter which skill you preferred.
The community was massive. Servers were continuously filling up and mini-games had more than enough players for many rounds to be enjoyed. You could even hang out with other players and simply talk a load of nonsense while spending hours at a time mining iron for that juicy 100,000 gold coin for 1,000 units of ore trade. We enjoyed PK'ing (player killing), questing (at times), and general activity grinding to see who would be among the first to hit 99 in a skill.
You could set up a new account called "magicdong400xXx" because that's the limit of teenage creativity, grind resources, develop combat skills adhering to a specialist "pure" PK guide, make money, buy cool-looking gear (black trimmed addy armor anyone?), then lose it in the wilderness. Rinse and repeat, and yes that meant creating a new account because we wanted to test out new strategies (that sucked).
To my surprise, Runescape is still going strong and there's even a mobile version on the way. It's drawing in tens of thousands of players each and every day with servers holding hundreds of people.
So I logged in and selected a server to join.
A return to Runescape
It was hard to believe that I actually had to download a client to play Runescape. This was unheard of, especially considering the fact that we only had Internet Explorer and Firefox at our disposals back in the day to access the game. But boy has this game evolved. It's no longer the cute Java game with a terrible resolution and clunky UI. There's full-screen mode with some really good visuals for what is essentially a browser game.
It was actually incredibly confusing at first. What did I last do all those years ago? What do I do now? What the hell is Solomon's General Store?!
Everything is so different. There are now costumes, which are essentially cosmetic items that can change the look of your character without swapping out armor. This threw me off guard, as no longer was I able to quickly glance at a player and determine what he was wearing.
There's also the inclusion of the Solomon Store, which is the home of micro-transactions in the game. You can spend in-game bonds that are earned through playing the game or use real money to purchase items. I'm not a fan of this at all, especially given that this is a paid subscription game for many. (It's free-to-play, but you'll need to fork out for a subscription to access premium areas of the game and is totally worth it.)
Considering what Runescape was, this is incredible development.
If that wasn't enough, Jagex also implemented a whole new combat system, removed the wilderness (WHYYYY!?), and deployed more quests for players to work through. I loved how you could actually use non-combat skills more often in the world to make some of them slightly more useful. Strangely enough, it feels more like a MMORPG now than ever before, even though there are some things I do not like about the changes. Everything sort of felt the same, but it was such a departure from the game that I stopped playing back in 2006.
I really like the changes but it's not the game I loved. It just didn't provide that much-wanted nostalgia buzz I had hoped for. That was until I spotted Old School Runescape as part of the subscription membership.
The good ol' days
Downloading the dedicated client for Old School Runescape (I was shocked to learn you are also required to download software to play this iteration of Runescape), made my jaw drop. Old School Runescape came about when Jagex asked the community if the developer should launch a backup copy of the game from 2007 and place it on a different development branch. I'm so glad the community agreed, because this is exactly what I was cravings.
Creating a new account ran me through the tutorial island, killing cows, mining iron, chopping wood, completing basic quests, and figuring out whether I wanted to be a wizard or not. The graphics remain the same, while the UI has been improved. The best part of Old School Runescape is the development process. The team shoots out polls to see what players want to be added to the game, and ideas need 75 percent approval to be selected.
This is an excellent way of doing things and ensures that players are able to mold the game into the MMORPG they desire.
Oh, my. This music.
Reminscing on Runescape
Some nostalgic things I remember doing a decade ago after logging into this classic version of Runescape:
- Trying to PK at level 20 as a pure mage.
- Avoiding Dark Wizards south of Varrock.
- Doing the ore run with friends.
- Killing cows for hides.
- Pointlessly standing around in Varrock and Falador.
- Learning about the Falador Massacre in chat.
- Setting fire to lines of logs with others to spam fires everywhere.
- Getting lost after becoming a member trying to pass over White Wolf Mountain.
- Law rune running.
- Whipping and being whipped in Castle Wars.
- Massive group fights.
- Attempting to mess with bots to ruin their efficiency.
Runescape is a game that will always hold a place in my heart. The same goes for thousands of other players. Recently, Jagex received a few more Guinness World Records, such as:
- Most original pieces of music in a video game (1,198 scores).
- Most prolifically updated MMORPG (1,014 updates).
- Most users of an MMO (254,994,744).
If you've been holding off revisiting the game, or have yet to try it out, I strongly recommend you do so — just remember Old School Runescape, which is for those who seek a more classic experience.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I must travel afar and start building up my Hunter to make some serious cash.
Image source: Imgur
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Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.